They kind of had to stretch to make the title work, but they got there in the end. For each respective side of the Battleground Records split tape between Arizona polisci sludgecore bashers Godhunter and Oakland atmospheric blackened doomers Secrets of the Sky, there are two songs. Godhunter present “Pursuit/Predator” and “Gh/0st:s” and Secrets of the Sky have “The Star” and “Gh/0st:s (Part II),” the latter cut for both deriving its title from an acronym of the bands’ names, the second one altered so that if written out it would appear as “Of the Sky: Secrets” and stylized with a zero where the ‘o’ in “of” would otherwise be. Again, it’s a stretch, but they make it work, and tie the two pieces together musically well. The two acts toured together earlier this summer around slots at the Doom in June festival in Las Vegas and they’ll partner again — with many others as well — for the Southwest Terror Fest as part of a booming lineup headed by Neurosis, SunnO))), Goatsnake, et al. On the earlier tour, the tape was sold in an edition of 100 copies with artwork by Nate Burns. Vinyl is due at the end of this month in cooperation between Battleground and The Compound.
What the two bands mostly have in common is that they’re heavy, and yes, I recognize that says next to nothing about them. Godhunter derive a big part of their sound from hardcore, and as the “Pursuit/running you down” call and response gang-style vocals over acoustic guitar round out “Pursuit/Predator” — which begins and ends with the Zodiac Killer, sampled — that’s all the more prevalent. To contrast, Secrets of the Sky take a Euro-style approach to blackened doom, a clearer production than one thinks of to fit the phrase “American black metal” adding a lush sensibility to their doomed progression on “The Star.” I suppose the two bands share an affinity for experimentation as well, however, since both 10-plus-minute installments of “Gh/0st:s” depart widely from the sphere of what one might expect from the band. In Godhunter‘s case, they bring in vocalist Julia DeConcini of Young Hunter and Burning Palms to top a moody, ambient tension with layers of otherworldly melody. There’s a spoken word break somewhere around the middle, and a guitar chug emerges later on, but at no point does “Gh/0st:s” explode with the kind of aggression shown in “Pursuit/Predator,” and that’s obviously the idea.
Immediately, Secrets of the Sky are on a different wavelength. Side two starts out with guitars slowly building up, and when “The Star” kicks in full brunt, the Oakland five-piece include a roaring death metal growl for good measure. A current of synth throughout provides further distinction, but even without, Secrets of the Sky have a more metallic root. Blackened vocals over a rolling doom verse give way to atmospheric guitar and spoken whispers, and it’s not until the final moments a cleaner-sung approach is revealed. By then, Secrets of the Sky have taken “The Star” up and down and around and beaten the hell out of it, a clear, full production ensuring that nothing is lost in the process. A more plotted feel presides over “Gh/0st:s (Part II)” as well, which is instrumental save for the endearingly blasphemous Exorcist sample at the end, as it too builds and recedes with crisply mixed toms, synth, acoustic guitar and plugged-in rumble. The sample is what pushes the track past 10 minutes, and I’d call it superfluous, but Secrets of the Sky and Godhunter pretty clearly had in mind that the pieces would complement each other and be of similar length, and they are.
Despite the sonic differences, there’s an apparent affinity between the two bands for each other’s work, and that comes across as they meet in the middle (it’s a very far out “middle”) on the two “Gh/0st:s” pieces. Still, each side of the tape has something different to offer underscoring the idea that, let’s say, if you’re showing up to a gig where both acts will be taking the stage, there’s really any number of angles from which your ass might be kicked.